Panamanian Organisations and Communities Unite Against Open-Pit Mining

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

First National Conference Against Mining - Panamanian Network Against Mining (REDAP) “United for a Better Community”

Given the infamously marginal existence of indigenous and peasant communities as a result of open-pit mining operations, the various groups opposing mining in different parts of the country have taken another step forward.

Indigenous peoples and peasants joined forces to establish the First Conference Against Mining in Panama, which arose from the need to integrate and promote alternatives to this threat. Therefore, the opening of this space facilitates the convergence of ideas and tasks for building a platform of struggle and community development.

As a concrete effort, the Panamanian Network Against Mining (Red Antiminera Panameña, REDAP), has been constituted, which in turn provides the conditions for joining the Central American Alliance Against Metallic Mining, which in its 6th Regional Meeting of May 2008, in Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica, expressed the need for Panama to join in this coalition.

This first meeting undertook an analysis of the reality of mining in Latin America and Panama from a perspective of the current situation of socio-environmental conflicts originating in mineral exploration and the dangerous development of open pit mining.

The findings were clear in determining the participation of different communities nationwide, mobilizing and promoting alternatives that are sustainable from a community and cultural perspective.

This meeting took place in Cañazas, Veraguas, on Saturday, September 6, 2008, with the participation of over forty community leaders who pledged their resounding rejection of any kind of predatory development and the irresponsibility of the Panamanian State in granting concessions for our natural resources to pirate companies.

STATEMENT OF THE FIRST MEETING AGAINST MINING

After completion of the First National Meeting Against Mining, we the undersigned, representing the communities affected by mining concessions and projects,

Considering:

1. That the metal mining industry is one of the most polluting in the world, as indicated by various studies and social and scientific observatories.

2. That the consequences of this harmful activity extend beyond the period of undertaking of the same and that neither the companies nor the state are liable for the damages.

3. That the current mining legislation does not protect communities environmentally or socially from harmful consequences to human health and the natural environment.

4. That there is no economic or social benefit, nor environmental compensation for this activity in relation to our communities.

5. That the different communities in the country have not been consulted in a broad, representative, and documented way that would allow us to decide as a society whether or not metal mining projects should be built.

6. That mining concessions that have been given in the indigenous regions violate international and domestic norms, especially in the Ngobé Buglé comarca.

We resolve:

1. To ask local governments in our respective communities that our municipalities be declared free of open-pit metal mining.

2. To ask the national government that Panama be declared free of open-pit metal mining.

3. That Panama ratify ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous Peoples.

4. That the persecution of leaders and members of communities and organizations that oppose open-pit mining cease.

5. That the mining code be urgently reviewed and reformed with the active and binding participation of the Panamanian Network Against Mining, REDAP, representing all affected communities nationwide.

6. We demand of the government and authorities that instead of an activity as damaging and unsustainable as metal mining, activities be promoted and supported that use our lands, forests, and water in a responsible manner, and that the proceeds of those activities remain in our communities.

7. That the economic activities that are promoted in favour of greater and better utilization of our natural resources, be driven and supported by education and financial support from government and credit agencies responsible for managing the sustainable development of our communities.

8. We aspire to create a law of socio-environmental and sustainable development, reflecting the recommendations of the communities.

9. Regarding the existence of the Petaquilla Mine, which as expressed in the recent pronouncements of ANAM and the Supreme Court, is not in compliance with current legislation, representatives of the undersigned communities ask the Ombudsman and the Director of the National Environmental Authority to undertake a joint inspection of the Petaquilla mine with the object of verifying the status and the consequences of the activities that have so far been undertaken without an environmental impact study.

Member communities of the Panamanian Network Against Mining (REDAP):

  • “Yes to Life” Committee of Soná and Las Palmas.
  • Cañazas Front in Defence of Life and Mineral Resources.
  • Donoso Committee for the Closing of the Petaquilla Mine.
  • Cerro Pelado Committee.
  • Plan de Chorcha Committee.
  • Cerro Caballo Committee.
  • Manos Unidas de Rio Gatú Committee.
  • Santeño Committee Against Mining.
  • Santa Fé - Luis River Committee.
  • Cerro Colorado Committee.
  • Lajilla Committee.

Accompanying Organizations:

  • Ecological Resistance Collective.
  • Center for Environmental Advocacy CIAM.
  • Human Rights UP Collective.
  • CEPAS Veraguas.
  • Oilwatch Panama.

Cañazas, Veraguas, Panama
September 6, 2008